Remote work exploded in popularity in 2020, mostly due to the global outbreak of COVID-19. This switch changed how most industries functioned, but it especially affected those working within human resources.
As the gatekeepers for the administrative work within a business, those working in HR needed to find new ways to do their jobs. They weren’t able to simply transfer their existing policies to suit remote work. Instead, they created new policies to support businesses, help them continue to grow, and protect the employees working within these organizations.
In this article, we’re going to explain how remote work has affected those working within HR. We will cover the following:
- How popular remote work has become
- Ways employees benefit from working remotely
- The benefits of continuing working remotely for businesses
- Remote work challenges HR professionals need to keep in mind
- Businesses continuing with their remote work policy
- Remote work policies businesses have adopted
Let’s get started.
The rise of working remotely
As we mentioned above, remote work skyrocketed in 2020 due to COVID-19. Full industries that traditionally required employees to commute to the office sent their workforces home. Two weeks turned into a month, then another month, and for many industries, we’ve surpassed a full year of remote work.
But just how popular has remote work become within the past year? Below, we’ve gathered all the remote work statistics you’ll need to understand just how much it has exploded across most industries:
- During COVID-19, 70 percent of full-time workers in the U.S. worked remotely (OWL Labs)
- In fact, 62 percent of workers in America have worked remotely during COVID-19 (Gallup)
- After COVID-19, 80 percent of full-time workers believe they will work remotely at least three times per week. (OWL Labs 2020)
However, pharmaceutical companies released the COVID-19 vaccines in December 2020, and since then, more than 160 million doses have been administered, according to NPR. In fact, more than 59 million people—about 18 percent—of the United States has been fully vaccinated.
But now what? If you are working in HR, the CEO of your business might be asking for input about how to move forward as remote work becomes less mandatory for safety. If that’s the case, the statistics below can help you navigate that discussion:
- Seventy-seven percent of workers said they would be happier given the option to work remotely after COVID-19. (OWL Labs)
- 50 percent of workers said they don’t plan on returning unless remote work is offered (OWL Labs)
- Eighty-one percent of respondents to an OWL Labs survey believe their employer will support working remotely after COVID-19.
- 1 in 2 people said they would move to another location if they were able to work all or most of the time remotely. (OWL Labs)
- Thirty-eight percent of employers expect their remote employees to work two or more days a week away from the office after COVID-19—a 16 percent increase from employers surveyed before the pandemic. (McKinsey)
Employee benefits of remote work
As an HR professional, you know that employees are a business’s greatest asset. They are the ones working every day to help the business reach its full potential—and then even more. And as an HR professional, you often stand as the bridge of communication between employees and those at the top of the ladder.
So if your business is trying to decide whether or not to continue a remote work policy, you need to make sure you can articulate exactly how helpful remote work is to employees. These statistics can help:
- Comfort: 44 percent of remote workers found it unnecessary to dress up for video meetings. (OWL Labs) That means they can be more focused on the content of the meetings instead of the discomfort of their clothing.
- Fewer Expenses: $479.20—that’s the average amount people have saved per month working from home during COVID-19. In fact, 44 percent of employees expect a pay increase if they are expected to return to the office. (OWL Labs)
- No Commute: Remote workers save around 40 minutes each day by not commuting to an office. (OWL Labs) In fact, commuting time has been reduced by 62.4 million hours per day from the middle of March 2020 to the middle of September 2020. (Apollo Technical)
- Health: 72 percent of remote workers surveyed said working remotely would make them feel less stressed. Also, 77 percent of these workers reported that working from home would help them maintain a work-life balance. (OWL Labs)
- Trust: 82 percent of remote workers surveyed said they’d feel more trusted if they could work remotely. (OWL Labs)
How businesses benefit from remote work
However, CEOs also need to make sure their business can continue to grow and prosper—or prosper again if negatively affected by COVID-19. The statistics below will show them that this is possible, and actually likely, if they grant employees a continuation of remote work:
- Engagement: 32 percent of remote workers reported being engaged more than 80 percent of the time, whereas office workers reported being engaged 28 percent of the time. (Gallup)
- Productivity: 75 percent of remote workers reported being at the same productivity level—or more productive—while working from home during COVID-19 (OWL Labs)
- Salary: 25 percent of respondents said they would take a pay cut of more than 10 percent in order to continue working from home after COVID-19. (OWL Labs)
- Lower Turnover: 13 percent more of remote workers said they were likely to stay in their current job for the next five years compared to office workers (OWL Labs)
Work from home difficulties
However, while remote work boasts significant benefits for employees and employers, there are also challenges. As an HR professional, these are challenges that you need to make sure your policy addresses if your CEO decides to continue to allow employees to work from home.
- Gender-Based Harassment: 25 percent of respondents reported experiencing more gender-based harassment while working remotely. This survey defined harassment as “yelling, uncomfortable or repeated questions about identity and appearance, and requests for dates or sex.” (NPR)
- Race-Based Harassment: When ethnicity was accounted for, that harassment increased—39 percent of Asian woman and nonbinary people, 38 percent of Latinx woman and nonbinary people, and 42 percent of transgender people reported experiencing harassment while working remotely between May and February. (NPR)
- Age-Based Harassment: 14 percent of respondents reported an increase in age-based harassment. (NPR)
- Race-Based Hostility: An increase in hostility was reported by 45 percent of women who identified as African, African American, or Black and 30 percent of women who described themselves as Asian or Asian American. In this survey, hostility was defined as “behavior that is less abusive than harassment and may not break company rules, but still creates a harmful environment.” (NPR)
- More Hours: Remote workers reportedly work more than 40 hours per week, which is 43 percent more than office workers do. In fact, 1 in 5 workers surveyed said they work more during COVID-19. (OWL Labs)
- More Meetings: There has been a 50 percent increase in video meetings during COVID-19. (OWL Labs)
- However, 80 percent of employees believe there needs to be one day per week without any meetings. (OWL Labs)
- Adapting: 26 percent of workers reported difficulties with remote work due to not doing it before and needing to learn how to adjust. (OWL Labs)
- Unexpected Costs: Only 20-25 percent of companies have reportedly paid or shared the cost of WFH expenses such as home office equipment, furniture, cable, chairs, etc. (OWL Labs)
- Office Vacancies: The vacancy rate of offices in the U.S. will climb to 19.4 percent with COVID-19, compared to 16.8 percent at the end of 2019. Researchers expect this vacancy rate to rise to 20.2 percent by the end of 2022. (Moody’s Analytics)
Companies continuing with remote work
How are companies approaching remote work moving forward? We’ll first share a few large companies that have decided to continue with a WFH policy:
- JPMorgan plans to continue allowing its employees to work from home between one or two weeks per month or two days per week. (McKinsey)
- Ford also told its office workers that they could continue working remotely “indefinitely” and have “flexible hours approved by their managers.” (Forbes)
- Salesforce reportedly only expects its employees to come into the office one to three days per week. (The New York Times)
Remote work policies
If you’re working in HR, you’re responsible for helping construct a successful remote work policy. So below, we’ll share several businesses’ WFH policies:
German company Siemens announced that its employees would be able to work remotely two to three days per week. But the CEO Roland Busch also told employees that Siemens will be incorporating a new approach to working in general. This approach focused on outcomes and not hitting a certain number of hours:
“The basis for this forward-looking working model is further development [of] our corporate culture. These changes will also be associated with a different leadership style, one that focuses on outcomes rather than on time spent at the office. We trust our employees and empower them to shape their work themselves so that they can achieve the best possible results. With the new way of working, we’re motivating our employees while improving the company’s performance capabilities and sharpening Siemens’ profile as a flexible and attractive employer.” (Inc.)
As we mentioned above, working remotely can increase employees’ productivity and engagement, meaning better results for a business. However, it can be challenging to build meaningful relationships with teammates while working in different locations. Those connections are important to create cohesion and trust. That’s why Lessonly encourages employees to meet face-to-face through team outings.
Lessonly flies its employees in to meet in the “real world.” In between these face-to-face meetings, the company also puts together weekly all-team meetings with the in-house team using video. (RingCentral)
Buffer works hard to combat burnout among employees. One way it does this is with a series of Slack Agreements. These agreements are:
- Employees are responsible for managing their downtime and boundaries regarding Slack
- Employees should default to posting in public channels unless they need a private question answered
- Workers should use their status and profile to communicate when they are and are not available
- Employees need to be deliberate about their notifications, meaning setting them up to be notified only with direct messages, those @ the employee, and highlighted words.
- Workers should communicate everything they need so that the recipient has all the information they need to respond when they can
- They should also thread their messages to cut down on confusion when talking to multiple people
- Employees should set themselves as “away” or “Do Not Disturb” when they need to focus
- They aren’t required to—and shouldn’t—constantly check messages
- Workers should message @channel for emergencies only since it notifies everyone, and use @here instead since it notifies those only online at the moment
- Responses to messages are only required by the end of a recipient’s normal workday
Remote work is here to stay across countless industries. That means if you work in HR, you need to know how to move forward with policies that benefit everyone. Hopefully the statistics above will help you navigate remote work in your company.